The idea that by donning a pair of Robocop-style glasses things will be better is the stuff of Never Never Land.
Remember how everybody thought that by putting a QR code on products, windows and in-store displays, shoppers would somehow dig deep and start spending? It never really took off, in spite of the much-vaunted Tesco QR code virtual shop on the Seoul subway. This was because it didn’t always work when used in conjunction with a smartphone and also because life is generally too short for this kind of flimflam.
Yet just as this fad fades into obscurity, another one hoves into view. This time it’s called ‘wearable technology’ and, broadly, involves donning a pair of specs on which additional information about what you’re looking at in a shop (or anywhere else for that matter) will appear. It’s that by now familiar chestnut augmented reality and the idea is that armed with more background about a product you’ll be in a better position to assess whether it meets your needs.
All good, but how much information do you need and are you really prepared to crawl around a shop looking like a slimmed-down and emaciated Terminator ready to zap the nearest shop assistant who doesn’t come up with the price you want? Maybe not and maybe, just maybe, this is another solution from the technology industry in search of a problem.
There is occasionally the sense that the retail technology sector has come about as far as it can go when it comes to in-the-customer’s-face hardware. We now all carry phones on which shopping apps can be downloaded, and for those in search of more there is digital signage and information aplenty in strategic positions around most shops these days. Do we want or, perhaps more importantly, need more?
And, if this sounds more than a little Luddite, it’s worth bearing in mind that at the back of all of this there is the shop. About a decade and a half since the first predictions of the death of physical stores was posited, our high streets remain full of the things. We still seem to like going to the shops and, to judge by the number of people carrying shopping bags, we still enjoy buying things when we get there.
But look on the bright side. With a pair of info-laden glasses you could freeze-frame the moment when our athletes fail to deliver at Sochi this week. It’s all downhill from there.